The End Of Alice

( 17 )

Overview

From the 2013 Orange Prize-winning author of May We Be Forgiven

Only a work of such searing, meticulously controlled brilliance could provoke such a wide range of visceral responses. Here is the incredible story of an imprisoned pedophile who is drawn into an erotically charged correspondence with a nineteen-year-old suburban coed. As the two reveal — and revel in — their obsessive desires, Homes creates in ...

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The End Of Alice

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Overview

From the 2013 Orange Prize-winning author of May We Be Forgiven

Only a work of such searing, meticulously controlled brilliance could provoke such a wide range of visceral responses. Here is the incredible story of an imprisoned pedophile who is drawn into an erotically charged correspondence with a nineteen-year-old suburban coed. As the two reveal — and revel in — their obsessive desires, Homes creates in The End of Alice a novel that is part romance, part horror story, at once unnerving and seductive.

The author of In a Country of Mothers examines the dark, disturbing corners of an American psyche that refuses to know itself despite a plethora of cover stories on abuse and of 12-step programs for sexual addicts. Set inside the head of a violent sex offender now in his 23rd year of confinement, The End of Alice masterfully captures the decadent, sometimes violent, aspects of sexual obsession and desire.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With all the cunning and control of a brilliant lover, she takes us places we dare not go alone." — Los Angeles Times

"The book shocks, mesmerizes, repels, and titillates, erupting at one unforgettable point in a harrowing flashback that does for baths what Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho did for showers." — Vanity Fair

"A breathtaking new novel...certain to cause controversy." — Elle

"Superlative...undeniably shocking...superbly achieved by a writer who is a true artist." — Vogue

"As dark and treacherous as ice on the highway...A. M. Homes never plays it safe and it begins to look as if she can do almost anything." — Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like recent novels by Susannah Moore and Joyce Carol Oates, Homes's latest (after her A Country of Mothers) is a literary serial-killer novel, by turns sensational and clever, smutty and powerful. It is told as a prison confession, by a notorious but unnamed pedophile in his 23rd year at Sing Sing who has begun to receive letters from a depressed, rebellious (and also unnamed) 19-year-old. Trapped at home in Scarsdale for the summer, boxed in by her callous suburban parents, she acts out the turmoil and anomie of nascent adulthood by embarking on a salacious affair with a 12-year-old male neighbor. Her voice emerges in short, quizzical letters to the narrator. But, as refracted through his self-consciously mannered, feverish and puerile imagination, it's impossible to tell where she ends and he begins: her precocious erotic acrobatics resemble his rough jailhouse sex; her raunchy paeans to pubescent flesh echo his carnal obsessions. Her letters also prompt the narrator to remember his own abuse by his mother and his gruesome murder of Alice Sommerfield, a 12-year-old who, he claims, seduced him. With its allusions to Lolita and Lewis Carroll, this is a lurid but weirdly arch page-turner that may prove too unsavory for all but the most jaded readers. Author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
In this deeply disturbing novel, Homes (In a Country of Mothers, LJ 8/93) seems to be attempting to create as repulsive a protagonist as possible-a nameless pedophile serving his 23rd year at Sing Sing. Alongside his narrative is the tale of a 19-year-old college coed obsessed by a preteen boy. A large part of the novel centers on the half-real, half-imagined ties that develop between the convict and the college student as a result of her increasingly graphic letters to him. The rest is a reminiscence of his affair with a 12-year-old seductress named Alice that ends in her gruesome murder. Deliberately shocking and confrontational, Homes's purpose seems to be to force the reader into a kind of Dostoevskian identification with the blackest and most perverse elements of human nature. An optional purchase for larger libraries.-Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
Kate Moses
The narrator of A.M. Homes' fourth book is an educated, unctuous, pathetic sex offender, deep in middle age, who was imprisoned 23 years earlier for the brutal murder of a little girl -- the "ended" Alice of the title. His latest parasitic correspondent is a sulky college girl with an unseemly fascination for a 12-year-old boy living down the street. She begins what amounts to an epistolary peep show, sending the prisoner chirpy letters outlining her summer of love ("Took Matt to Tower. Bought a falafel. Tennis date tomorrow. Can't wait! Did it in the blueberry patch."). Though he grumbles about her exclamation marks and imbecilic language, the letters supply the prisoner with just enough detail to allow him to cast his own vibrant fantasies.

It is those fantasies coupled with quotidian prison life, all of it throbbing with violence and melodrama, that are the unsavory meat of the book: imagining boiling his hands to heighten his sensitivity when molesting young girls; a breathless scab-eating session; the youngsters giving each other golden showers after a frolic in the sprinkler; the de rigueur remembered childhood sexual abuse and equally necessary prison rape scene; shooting the coed up the vagina with a BB gun. The list goes on, ad nauseam.

Fueled by his weeks of imaginings, the prisoner moves toward his appearance before the prison board and his impending release. Like Freddie limping back to Elm Street, he has plans to visit the college girl who happens to live -- would you believe? -- in dead Alice's old neighborhood. But first, he offers a hollow rationale for his (and the author's) story: "I am no better or worse than you," he claims, dragging in that old universality-of-human-nature ploy. Too bad we can't put A. M. Homes in prison for writing a book this gratuitous. Or for her mistaken assumption that, by alliterating the prisoner's feverish reveries, she injects an element of poetry into the prisoner's plight. Lines like "piss-stained pages ... the crustation of evaporated excrete -- a conservator's conundrum, not the kind of compilation collectors would kvell over" should land anyone in jail. --Salon

Sarah Schulman
The unnamed narrator, identified only as the imprisoned molester and killer of a girl named Alice, corresponds gleefully with a young woman who molests boys who are younger still. These two imaginative deviates share the details of their pederastic experiences, and he fantasizes about her predatory acts all the while...

Holme's characterization of the narrator is developed as she gradually reveals a carefully selected grab bag of narrative clues...Holme's strength, however, is her ability to spell out what many people feel but may never investigate: sexually manifestations of anger, anvy, humiliation, inadequacy, and regret.
The Advocate

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684827100
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 2/18/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 226,524
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

A. M. Homes

A. M. Homes is the author of This Book Will Save Your Life,
Things You Should Know, Music for Torching, In a Country of Mothers, The Safety of Objects, Jack, and Los Angeles: People, Places, and the Castle on the Hill. Recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, she is a Vanity Fair contributing editor and publishes in The New Yorker, Granta, Harper's, McSweeney's, Artforum, and The New York Times.

Biography

The book Homes is perhaps best known for is her novel The End of Alice -- chiefly because it caused such a stir.

The narrator, a middle-aged sex offender in prison for murdering a little girl, develops a correspondence with a college girl who's obsessed with a 12-year-old boy. The result was a compendium of behavior -- real and imagined -- that was largely so violent, sickening or "show-offy dirty," as the New York Times put it, that its prose and events were excerpt-resistant and left mainly to the brave and curious. The book spurred a flurry of protests and attempted bans.

In 1999, Homes followed up The End of Alice with Music for Torching, a novel of kink and circumstance in the suburbs of New York in which an unhappy couple sets fire to their own house, then moves in with neighbors whose seemingly perfect marriage reveals its own subterranean faults. A high school hostage situation that is part of the book's coda had coincidental parallels to the Columbine tragedy that same year. The New York Times had a typical response: "The fact is, I was at times appalled by the book, annoyed by it, angered by it. Its ending struck me as cynical and manipulative. But even so, I found myself rapt from beginning to end, fascinated by Homes's single-minded talent for provocation."

For many readers, summaries like this are a signal to run, run, run in the other direction. But first, consider that Homes's books are not just big Pandora's boxes -- they can be a funny Pandora's boxes. In the story "Real Doll," for example, collected in 1990's The Safety of Objects, a boy's -- er, relationship -- with a Barbie doll bears some humorous gibes ("I [Barbie] if she wanted something to drink. ‘Diet Coke,' she said. And I wondered why I'd asked.").

Homes's earlier work is also almost sweet by comparison. Her well-received debut novel Jack chronicled the struggles of a 15-year-old to cope with his parents' divorce and the revelation that his dad is gay; In a Country of Mothers deals with a middle-aged counselor's deepening relationship with her 19-year-old female client. Both books contain poignant explorations of identity.

In her second story collection Things You Should Know, Homes continued to develop her singular, eclectic voice. A biracial marriage suffers a rift created by an addled, deteriorating mother-in-law in "Chinese Lessons"; Nancy Reagan's current life is devilishly imagined in "The Former First Lady and the Football Hero"; a woman endeavors to inseminate herself with the leftovers from beach trysts she espies in "Georgica." As with Homes's previous works, the collection is a testament to the author's talents for portraying the depths of human pain and depravity with humor and unabashed honesty.

Good To Know

Homes is an adjunct assistant professor of creative writing at Columbia University.

Perhaps tired of the scrutiny that arose from The End of Alice, Homes often comes across as a difficult interview subject, flatly refusing to indulge (or even validate) the natural curiosity about any personal connection to her work. She dressed down an interviewer in The Barcelona Review in 1997 thusly: "I have no experience with ‘recovery.' Again, you're applying your own notions about abuse, recovery, personal narrative, to the work. These are not areas I work from, they are not relevant. ...You seem to have a recurring question or concern about how I assimilate what goes on in my stories into everyday life. I am a fiction writer, I work from my imagination, in response to things going on in the culture."

The Safety of Objects was adapted for film by director Rose Troche in 2001, with stars including Glenn Close and Dermot Mulroney.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 18, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    THIS SHOULD BE AN EBOOK!!

    I have a Nook and I want this book on it. ): It is not in either of the two library districts and it would be so much cheaper to just have it as an ebook instead of getting a hard copy and having to wait for it in the mail.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Just a Thought

    The ephebophile title to go along with the main male character is accurate. [To confirm and add creditability to what was earlier stated in a pervious review.]

    The book itself is truly intriguing and given the proper reader can be a worth while experience for someone daring enough to dive deeper into a darker reality. First stumbling across this book in my high school library last year, many of my peers questioned if a Sophomore should be reading such a deeply evolved book- still A.M Homes truly captured my attention and gave me much to think about. Maturity level is something to keep in mind here, the story plot is hard to accept for anyone easily disconcerted.
    Obviously the twisted intellectual mind of the main male character is captivating in a horrifying way that questions your morality as you discover his past- and even possibly find sympathy for the doomed man.

    A great read, but keep in mind the content and be ready for that risk.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2009

    Wow..

    I first was introduced to this book by a friend and I have to say, I have never read anything like this before. I understood afterward why some people mentioned that the book should be read by an older crowd. I'm a junior in high school and I have to admit this book scared me a little. The writing style of the book was impressive and allowed me to easily slip into the story line. The story line itself was shocking, several times I found myself questioning why I was reading it, but I had to find out what happened. I do recommend this book and I don't. I recommend it to people who have an open mind and can appreciate well written works, but I don't recommend it to those who have a hard time separating the intensity of the actual story line.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2008

    Disturbing novel, not for the faint of heart...

    I have enjoyed nearly all of Ms. Homes' writing, but 'The End of Alice' was titillating to extremes, tauntingly horrifying and it goes to dark desires that may lurk behind the average teen and the nearly average psycho-sadistic pedophile's mind. I do not recommend this book for anyone who is not of college age--and I mean juniors and seniors in college or older readers. The level of comprehension required is not well developed in younger readers, and it is much too disturbing for anyone without a strong stomach.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2000

    Azamingly disturbing, tittilating provacative...

    This was the first AM Homes Book I read, and it surely won't be the last. Homes focuses on aspects too dirty for voicing, and she does it brilliantly. However in some ways it appears that her sole purpose for writing the novel was to reveal her own dirty fascinations. Either way, the novel is exceptional and I highely reccomend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I don't know how to review this book. I don't have the slightest

    I don't know how to review this book. I don't have the slightest clue about what I could possibly say.

    This book isn't for everyone. Really, I'm not sure if this book is for anyone at all. There's the disturbing subject of pedophilia for one. However, I've read Tampa, so that's not something I've exactly shied away from. The End of Alice is different, though. Besides the disturbing subject, it's just foul. I can't count the number of times I had to stop reading for a few moments simply because of how disgusting this book was. And really, that's the only term I can think of to adequately describe how I felt about this book. Disgusted.

    Aside of being thoroughly disgusted, the book is well written. It always boggles my mind how an author can write a book like this. How can a book with this subject matter be so well written? How can anything this gross be worth reading? I'm not sure if I'll ever figure it out, but it happens. This is one of those instances. Well written, disturbing, and worth reading if you can handle the subject matter.

    You can check out my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2008

    The End of Alice

    'The End of Alice' in a number of instances suggests that the protagonist (the rather viscious pedophile) and the secondary character, the female pedophile could be 'anyone.' Certainly disagree strongly with this--most people even in today's world still have both morals and self control, and choose to exercise same. Much of the book was quite frankly disgusting. Makes me wonder where on earth the author pulled together such an ugly book. I could see very little that had any value, even as social commentary.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book was very horrifying in many ways. This book was extremely, I don't know the word for it but, wrong. Disturbing, yet gripping. It let me fall into the world of the narrator and his corrupted mind. His obsession with little girls and sexual pleasure and desire- it really disturbed me to where my jaw hung to the floor for about ten minutes after I finished reading this shocking novel. I still shudder at the thought of what his childhood was like with his pyschopath mother and her horrific ways with her little son. Please, don't read this unless you think you can handle it. I seriously think the author needs help. I probably shouldn't judge her since I haven't read any of her other books, but by just this one novel, my mind has reached places I never needed to know about. I had nightmares after I read her book. It was truly sick and twisted.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2007

    woah.

    This book was amazingly scarey. The whole concept is troubling, and most of the events are disturbing. Never the less, this book was wonderfully written. The author is very talented and goes into such discrption that at some very dirty parts I had to put the book down and watch some cartoons to get my mind off what I'd read. Over all, the author has some amazing talent this book is raw and unqiue.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2000

    Thought Provoking- deep and moving.

    The story is fast paced and beautifully written- the insights are scary but deliciously tantalizing- I kept turning pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2000

    Deeply disturbing and provocative

    This book caught me by surprise and I'm glad it did. The End of Alice is dark, and daring. I spears you with it's sharp twists and provocative prose. It scared me, intrigued me, and over-all changed my views on the world and humanity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2000

    Memoires of an incarcerated ephebophile.

    First of all, it's not about a pedophile, it's about an ephebophile (adolescent lover, not child lover). Now that we're past the political propaganda terminology... I was impressed that a female writer could have such an accurate portrayal of males, though I suppose once you realize that sex is foremost on every male's mind, that isn't difficult. The same with male tolerance of grossness. I initially thought she went too far on the latter, in the part about scabs, but I had the book sent to an incarcerated ephebophile to see what he thought, and he said he used to do the same things with scabs. Holmes wins that round. I also appreciated that is was so uncensored in language and sexual descriptions, and that it had an interesting ending, but overall I didn't feel I had learned or thought about anything new, and found much of the descriptions of prison life and scabs a downer. I'd say the book's OK, but not something I would want to read again; try 'Lolita' or 'The Saskiad' first. The incarcerated acquaintance of mine was of about the same opinion: he preferred more descriptive novels like 'Billy' (Whitley Strieber, 1990).

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 11, 2014

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    Posted January 30, 2010

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